A Baltimore County grandmother's effort to restrict the age of people playing bingo in Carroll County has failed to win the support of the county delegation, at least for this year.
Betty Lou Hollenbaugh, a 72-year-old from Owings Mills, spoke with the Carroll commissioners last week about setting an age limit on bingo playing because she said children were often a distraction at the weekly games she attends at Carroll fire stations and fraternal organizations.
Although state law prohibits gambling by people younger than age 18, no state law regulates age for playing bingo, according to county attorney Kimberly A. Millender. Because it is not within the commissioners' jurisdiction to change state law, they referred Hollenbaugh's request to Sen. Larry E. Haines.
But after receiving Hollenbaugh's letter and petition signed by 100 people who support the age limit, Haines said it was too late in the legislative session to address the issue.
While Haines said that he has "never been a proponent of gambling," he also questioned whether it was the responsibility of the state to legislate what he said is essentially a local issue.
"It's a parent's responsibility to discipline and manage their own children," Haines said.
"This is not something where we need to immediately introduce some bill to basically ban children from attending carnivals and bazaars and bingo," he said. "We can't legislate everything to control people."
Volunteer fire companies can set age limits for their weekly bingo games, the proceeds of which help the companies pay for operating expenses not covered in the annual allotment they receive from the county.
Gamber and Community Volunteer Fire Company in South Carroll is one of the few organizations in the county to have a restriction that only those age 18 and older may play bingo.
Brenda Hay, chairwoman of the bingo committee at Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company outside Westminster, said an age restriction would hurt her company's fund-raising efforts.
A limit could prohibit junior firefighters, who are age 10 and older, from helping with the company's weekly games, which draw between 130 and 150 people.
"We depend on the juniors for all types of fund raising," Hay said.
Hollenbaugh, who has spoken to fire companies about setting age limits for bingo, said she will continue her quest.
"If Gamber can have a statement that specifies the age limit, why can't others?"